Leah O'Connell

client tips, families, favorites, Featured sessions

The best way to have fun with outdoor summer family photos

family photos with toddler, river, charlottesville
I'm Leah!

I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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So many clients preface their summer sessions with either “we’re so awkward, please help us” or “it’s so hot, this could get interesting” — so consider this quick tip the best way to have fun with outdoor summer family photos and address both concerns.

First, let’s get real. The summer in Charlottesville, VA is HOT.

Between June and September, it’s often between 80-100 degrees, so if you’re set on an outdoor session for your family photos and also want a really fun way to instigate natural connection and play with your family, add this one thing into your session plans:

A location with WATER.

family photos with toddler, river, charlottesville

Play in a lake, splash in a creek, toss rocks into the river.

Dip your toes in along the banks or go all in, clothes and all, to splash and play together.

Not only will it feel great after shooting in the sun, but it’s such a beautiful environment for connecting and celebrating the playfulness of summer. Plus, kids and adults alike are almost always more likely to relax and be themselves when splashing and skipping rocks.

Outdoor summer family photos can be SO much fun if you can embrace the weather and lean into it!

charlottesville family photos with toddler by the creek

More reasons to love the water for outdoor summer family photos:

There’s a beautiful reverence in letting your hair blow in the summer night breeze by the water.

A blissful joy in sharing a belly-laugh splash fight with your teens.

A heartwarming love that rises from watching a toddler play in a creek.

And anytime you can add in something slightly out of the ordinary, it elevates the mood and brings people together in a magical way.

There are several locations around Charlottesville where I love shooting that have water elements nearby to cool off at the end of your summer family photos.

The images in this post are from a recent session where this family introduced their toddler to splashing in a creek for the first time. They love hiking and playing outdoors together, so this little adventurous water play was a natural extension of capturing their family dynamic.

Emerging muddy, wet, and perfectly happy, this mom said–

“oh that was so much fun, what a treat to let that be part of these photos.”

Yes and amen.

family photos in a field and creek
family photos creek, charlottesville
family photos creek, charlottesville

Interested in learning more tips on how to keep your family photos feeling relaxed and natural?

What to wear for outdoor family photos when it’s hot

Favorite locations for outdoor family photos in Charlottesville

4 Tips for family photos with your dog

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Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer, writer, educator.

I’m  one of the first to meet your newborn baby, the one who won't judge your clothes baskets and unmade beds, and the one who can capture the way your husband looks at you with a twinkle in his eye after 12 years of marriage. I believe in honoring people and telling stories.

I believe art has the power to light up the world in dark places, starting at home.